An annual reminder for Palestinians

While the attack was expected, the savagery was staggering, setting a new standard for Israeli brutality

Arhama Siddiqa April 13, 2023


On 5 April 2023, Israeli police baton-charged into the Qibli Mosque — one of the main praying areas in the Al-Aqsa compound — and attacked worshippers with teargas, stun grenades and rubber- coated steel bullets. Videos on social media show women screaming for help, as people are being brutally beaten, and a fire erupts amidst all the ensuing chaos.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces prevented ambulances and medics from reaching the site.

While the attack was expected — as in every Ramazan — the savagery was staggering, setting a new standard for Israeli brutality. The police claim that they were merely dealing with ‘masked agitators’ who had locked themselves in the compound. However, even if that was the case nothing begets an advanced and well-funded military system against people who, at the most, have rocks and sticks to defend themselves. Undoubtedly, Israel has placed the word ‘asymmetry’ into a new orbit altogether.

Israeli actions are a part of its ‘Judaize’ policy — not unlike what is happening in Indian-Occupied Kashmir. This includes, among other things, demolishing Palestinian neighbourhoods, forced evictions, and changing school curriculum. Any re-assertion of Palestinian identity is viewed as a threat and must be expunged immediately.

The holy month has become an annual reminder for the Palestinians that no land truly belongs to them, and they are only being allowed to stay on account of Israeli benevolence.

A few months ago, in December 2022, during the FIFA World Cup, the Palestinian flag and the keffiyeh scarf became a common sight. One of the major highlights of the tournament was the showcasing of Arab unity against the callous Israeli regime. In fact, many states that Palestine became the 33rd country in the World Cup. But alas, this surge of support fizzled out — as it always does — within weeks.

The start of 2023 has been the deadliest for Palestinians in over two decades with so far at least a 100 people being killed. Recently, the Knesset approved the formation of an armed force called the national guard, comprising 2,000 functionaries, primarily focused on Palestinian populations, with the main function being to tackle ‘nationalist crime’. The announcement was followed by statements from Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, in which he called the Palestinian people “an invention” of the past century and blatantly denied their existence altogether.

However, 2023 has also seen an astonishing breakdown in Israeli politics and economy, which have resulted in mass demonstrations. Most recently, a shift in policy by Prime Minister Netanyahu to remodel the country’s judicial system — which would restrict the Supreme Court’s influence — has resulted in frenzied protests all over country. On 25 March, more than 630,000 people rioted in the streets in Israel to protest the move, in what is the largest congregation witnessed so far. Even Israel’s longstanding ally, President Biden, traded barbs over the judicial overhaul, with his counterpart.

Amidst the internal tussle and uncertainty, many Israeli tech company officials have declared that they are planning to move their operations out of the country. Important to note here is that Israel’s high-tech industry — also called ‘Israel’s economic miracle’ — makes up an approximate 45% of exports and 20% of GDP and generates sizeable revenue from taxes. Moreover, in the event that these companies leave, the cost of living will increase dramatically.

Safe to say, things have not been going in Israel’s favour recently, and the charged vileness witnessed a few days ago may be Tel Aviv’s way of face saving. Afterall, bullies always attack those they can easily subjugate, and increased use of force helps keep up the optic illusion of who is in the driving seat.

The UN-led Middle East Peace Process remains at an impasse, as geopolitical relationships evolve at a pace controlled by events on ground. There are now growing concerns over the occurrence of a third intifada (uprising) by Palestinians and this will not bode well for an international order trying to withstand a fiscal crunch.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2023.

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